POPAWAY (Immy Robinson)

Cottesmore at Garthorpe – Preview

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The third meeting in the Midlands Pointing area is the first to be held at Garthorpe. Brian reports that the course has wintered well and that there is a good covering of grass. There has been some maintenance to the course, including improvements to the disabled viewing stand and some changes to where spectators may stand on the finishing straight. To fit in with health and safety requirements horses and spectators will follow separate routes on and off the course.

As usual there will be trade stands, catering, bar, bookmakers and a Tote as well as at least seven races on the card. There are 160 entries, some of these being the same horse in multiple races, with no less that 22 horses rated at 100 or better; an amazing prospect.

The going is currently Soft (Updated 3 pm Monday 19th February). Advanced tickets are available from midlandspointing.com at £10 per person or they will £13 on the Gate. Under 16s, as usual, are admitted free.

The first race on the card, scheduled for a 12 noon start, is the Garthorpe Hunts Conditions race for horses qualified with the hunts with Garthorpe meetings. This provides a twist on the usual Members race and hopefully won’t be affected too much by the new qualification rules, which allow horses from other areas to register with local packs more easily. There are several trophies up for grabs and twelve horses are entered. Top-rated is the Chatfeild-Roberts family’s Love Manhattan which is one of three horse carrying a 5lb penalty. Nick Wright has entered two horses: Burtredgipandgump and In a Blue Dust but the latter may run in the nine-year-olds and up race later in the day. Extreme Appeal will represent Johnny Weatherby and trainer Kelly Morgan and with two wins last season they will be one to watch without doubt.

The PPORA Club Members race for Novice riders which follows this is a qualifier for the Novice Rider Series Final at the Quorn meeting here, at the end of April. Among the 21 entries for this there are thirteen horses with entries into other races so we won’t know who will come to post until declarations are closed on the day. The best horse on paper is Dale Peters-trained You Too Pet, which won last time out at the Sinnington meeting but they may run in the nine-year-olds race instead. The same applies to the Aprahamians’ Bayleys Dream, also a winner last time out. Competition at the front will likely include L’Eldorado, twice a winner already this season, but they too might choose the Ladies Open. Nicky Shepherd may declare Ballycahane which has two firsts and a second this season and should be happy with the ground conditions.

The winning horse in the Mens Open will qualify for the Timico Mixed Open Final at Cheltenham on the 4th May. It also has 21 entries, twelve of them rated at 100 or above. The Rowleys have two here, Now Ben and Temple Grandin but I suspect the latter will run in the Ladies Open which follows this. Several other horses have recent wins. Lotus Pond won at three-and-a-half miles at Barbury in January but is also entered at another meeting so may not declare. Robert Waley-Cohen’s Facile Bien hasn’t run at Garthorpe before but won last time out at Milborne St Andrew so should be expected to feature strongly if the conditions are right. Cousin Pete also has a win this season and was second last time out in a hunter chase at Market Rasen, carrying 11st 9lb. The horse in third in that hunter chase was Warden Hill, who is also entered here. Before that he won the mixed open at Ampton and only has this entry so will probably run. Course specialist Thetalkinghorse beat Warden Hill here last season but would prefer faster ground.

The Ladies Open holds a double qualification. The Winning horse, as in the Mens Open, will qualify for the Timico Mixed Open final at Cheltenham, and the first two to finish will be eligible for the Skinner’s Ladies Open Final at Stratford, in June. Fifteen horses are entered and four stand out for this one. Popaway was looking set to win at Thorpe Lodge in January when she fell at the second last. Temple Grandin was pulled up last time out but has the class to perform here. Top Smart will likely be Gina Andrews’ ride here, won last time out in January, and has won several times before at this course. Queen Olivia has beaten Gina here before and will hope to do so again, this time in the hands of Leanda Tickle, but is also entered for the popular nine-year-olds race which follows.

That nine-year-olds and over race has forty entries, many of whom are entered in other races (and meetings), and nine of them are rated at 100 or better. The safety factor for this race is twenty horses so we could easily have to split this race but, with so many multiple entries, no decision has been made about this in advance. Of the horses not already mentioned there are plenty that have form. Gerald Bailey-trained Mr Madeit will compete, as will Ardkilly Witness (also entered in the Mens Open)  who was second to Hazel Hill last time out. His Excellency is a good chance for the Dawsons and Gunmoney is another one who might represent the Bailey yard. The Paulings’ En Passe has an entry at Badbury Rings on the same day but will be a strong contender too.

The Restricted race has 19 entries and a number have recent wins under their girth. Damby’s Star and Silent Warrior (over a shorter distance) won at Cocklebarrow in January; Keel Over at Horseheath earlier this month and Teeton Turnip at Thorpe Lodge at the Midlands Area Club meeting. Max O won at the end of last season, in his last run, but may choose the second race here instead. Tom Ellis will bring Kings Walden, third in the last run, as was Lord’s Park Star. Mountain Eagle and Urban Storm will both be looking to go one better than their second places last time out. Castle Cheetah and What A Joke visit a point-to-point track for the first time after careers under rules, where they both had a few places.

The last scheduled race on the card is the Open Maiden, which may also require a split, as it has 32 entries. As usual there are lots of unraced horses in this line up, ranging considerably in age, some having run under rules and others in Ireland. Some of the trainers are travelling long distances for this race though. Aint No Limits tops the list of rated horses, while Jaffna Queen and Cruisinforabruisin, will be carrying a stone less than other horses thanks to allowances. There is plenty of local interest, including the Chatfeild-Roberts’ Dulwich Hill, the Bevins’ Light And Easy, and Laura Pomfret-trained Pentridge Hill. One-eyed grey Unseen would be a popular as he is always close to the front.

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